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Father James Martin: How same-sex couples have blessed me

Views James Martin, S.J. / January 3, 2024 Print this:
João and Lourenço at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, in Portugal, in July 2023. (Photo courtesy of James Martin, S.J.)

Last summer, I was invited to Portugal to speak at World Youth Day and at a Jesuit gathering called Magis, designed for students from Jesuit colleges and universities. Before I departed for Lisbon, my Jesuit host, Sam, asked if I might like to visit Fátima, the famous Marian shrine. I was elated. 

I had been to Lourdes several times, but never to Fátima, despite having read several books on the Marian apparitions there, having prayed to Our Lady of Fátima often and even having seen the recent film of the same name. Sam said that he could arrange for someone to drive me from Lisbon, where I would be staying, to Fátima.   

 “I don’t want to take anyone out of their way,” I said. “Driving seven hours or however long it takes.”

“Jim,” said Sam, laughing, “nothing is seven hours away in Portugal!” Fátima, it turned out, was only a 90-minute drive away. He told me the names of the couple who would drive me, but since this was over the phone and I was focused on the logistical details of travel, the names didn’t register.

A few weeks later, I was sitting in a chapel, waiting for Mass to begin at St. John de Brito College, the Jesuit high school in Lisbon where the Magis activities were centered. Sam came in and said, “Here are your escorts.”  

Lost in the emphasis on priests blessing same-sex couples was how much same-sex couples have blessed the church. They have certainly blessed me.

They were (to my surprise) two men, João and Lourenço, whose faces were wreathed in smiles.

After Mass, we piled into their small blue car and took off for Fátima. Both João and Lourenço, who were engaged to be civilly married the next month, had read some of my books in Portuguese and were bursting with questions. (Both speak perfect English.) João is a sign-language interpreter for Deaf pilgrims at the shrine, and so gave me a précis of what we would see; Lourenço is a leader in a Christian life community in Lisbon and told me about the church in Portugal. Both are committed to their church and their faith. We talked nonstop for the whole drive through the beautiful countryside.

The visit was tremendously moving. We visited all the important sites: the Chapel of the Apparitions, where the Virgin Mary appeared to Jacinta, Francisco and Lúcia in 1917; the great basilica where the visionaries are buried; and, thanks to my hosts’ perfect knowledge of the environs, the homes of the visionaries and the other apparition sites. At one point, we prayed together beneath the great oak tree over which Mary had appeared. 

At lunch, we a lively conversation over a tosta mista, a kind of Portuguese ham-and-cheese sandwich.  Because of my devotion to Our Lady of Fátima, their company, their knowledge and their faith, it was, I told them as I left the car that night, one of the most enjoyable days of my life.  

Kraig and Mark picking out a Christmas tree this year. They have been together for 25 years.

A few weeks ago, the Vatican issued guidelines for priests to bless same-sex couples, under certain conditions. The declaration, “Fiducia Supplicans,” was issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office responsible for overseeing the church’s theological positions. Much of the public’s focus afterwards was not only on the newness of the practice and the varied reactions around the globe (with some bishops and bishops conferences rejecting the declaration and others welcoming it), but also on the guidelines for the blessings: no liturgical vestments, no formal rites, and overall, nothing resembling a marriage.

Last month, I was honored when I was asked to offer a blessing for two men I’ve known for some time: Jason, a Catholic theologian, and his husband Damian, a floral designer. Although it was a quick, informal blessing in the living room of my Jesuit community, I found it surprisingly moving.  

Afterwards, I realized how much Jason and Damian had blessed me through their friendship. For one thing, Jason has been a knowledgeable sounding board for me about LGBTQ matters over the past few years. It reminded me that lost in the emphasis on priests blessing same-sex couples was how much same-sex couples have blessed the church. They have certainly blessed me.

Louise and Liza have been together for “36 wonderful years.”

João and Lourenço, and Jason and Damian, are just two of many same-sex couples who have blessed my life. Mark and Kraig, who have been together 25 years, are another. Mark, whom I met while we were working in Kenya in the 1990s, works at a Jesuit university, and Kraig is a medical technician. My friends Karen and Rose, two longtime and active parishioners at a nearby Jesuit parish, are another wonderful couple. Karen and I worked together for many years at America magazine. Louise, a massage therapist (who, even though she is not Catholic, always supports my work and reads all my books), and her wife Liza, a college professor, are another.  They’ve been together for “36 wonderful years,” as Louise recently told me.

Kurt, a former Jesuit, and his husband Carlos are raising a child, who is now four years old. Craig, a Catholic high school teacher, is married to J, a composer whose arrangements are sung in the church I regularly attend for Sunday Mass. Mike and Matt, one a journalist and the other an emergency-room physician, are two of the most faithful Catholics I know. 

Rose and Karen, “together for 23 years and married for 11” 

And since Outreach began a few years ago, I’ve met many other same-sex couples. Mark and Yuval produced a documentary called “Wonderfully Made,” about LGBTQ Catholics. And my friends Brian and Alex have both become good friends and even hosted a fundraiser for Outreach at their home.

I’m not sure where to begin to share what these friends have meant to me and, again, how much they have blessed me. Instead let me tell you about just one more couple: my friends Carlos and Jim.  

Carlos and Jim met about 40 years ago, when they were both working in finance in New York City in the 1980s. After several years of working at a high-paying position, Carlos, a native of Colombia, decided that he wanted more from life, and so he left his job to become a hospital chaplain at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Carlos’s faith animated his whole life. In addition to his ministry as a hospital chaplain, he served at a local Jesuit parish as a Eucharistic minister and a lector. He also had a thriving practice as a trained spiritual director. (For a time, I was Carlos’s director, so I came to know him well.) I’m not sure how much more “active” a person could be in parish life.

Over the years, I’ve met dozens of same-sex couples, many of them Catholics who have persevered in their faith even as the church has felt like an unwelcome place for them.

Several years ago, Carlos developed cancer in his salivary gland. Jim cared for Carlos through the initial diagnosis, through countless visits to physicians, through radiation and chemotherapy, through surgery and through the long recovery periods after each of these difficult treatments. 

As Carlos’s health deteriorated, Jim asked if I might be able to arrange a trip for Carlos to Lourdes, the Catholic shrine in France. A few emails to some friends at the Order of Malta, the religious order that helps take the sick and their companions on pilgrimages to Lourdes, meant that Carlos would be able to go. 

Jim generously suggested that Carlos’s sister, who is also a devout Catholic, should go with him. So, the two traveled there together. But unbeknownst to Carlos, Jim had planned to surprise him, and so he arranged to fly there on his own. One day at the hotel, Jim arrived and, afterwards, the two prayed together and received a blessing for healing from a visiting cardinal.

Jim (in green) and Carlos (in the blanket), with Carlos’s sister Gloria and members of the Order of Malta in Lourdes.

Carlos died not long after that. Even though his Memorial Mass, which I celebrated, was delayed a year because of Covid, the church was packed. Everyone in the parish seemed to love Carlos and Jim. And why would we not? They had shared so much of their love with all of us.  

Over the years, I’ve met dozens of same-sex couples, many of them Catholics who have persevered in their faith even as the church has felt like an unwelcome place for them. “Fiducia Supplicans” is, for them, a wonderful blessing. But as the church ponders the new practice of blessing same-sex couples, let’s not forget how much they have blessed us, and the church. They have certainly blessed me. 

James Martin, S.J.

James Martin, S.J., is the founder of Outreach and the editor at large of America Media.

All articles by James Martin, S.J.

Outreach is part of America Media. To support Outreach you can make a donation or subscribe to America.

  1. I cannot tell you how much this article has helped me. My boyfriend and I, both Catholic and involved in our respective parishes, have been trying to integrate our love for each other and the Church. This article shows how other couples have done this…and I am sure, though not specifically mentioned, to some opposition. I have read a lot abut same sex couples but this article put it all together for a Catholic who is trying to see how my love for another man and the Church can grow and thrive together. Thank you!

    • Thanks for your kind words. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. These friends have really blessed my life.

    • Thank you for such a thoroughly uplifting article. As a same-sex attracted Catholic man married [to a woman] for 38 years, and member of Courage for about four years, your ministry is refreshing for me. Many sins have bedeviled humankind since the beginning. Maybe before long the judgemental, Pharisaical faction of the Church will start looking in the mirror, rather than finding fault with so many others, especially us and those who’ve undergone abortions. I know first hand that same-sex attraction is real. When it comes to “intrinsic evil”, it is astounding to me how we never hear of arrogance, money, status, and power. I pray that you continue writing. I will continue reading. God Bless you always!

  2. A beautiful article that for me, highlights God-with-Us! For surely, these couples possess a love for each other that comes as Gift! May God bless and protect us as we continue to grow in love!

    • Thanks so much!

  3. Thank you for your continuing ministry to the LGBTQ community and for your outreach to them and to those of us Catholics who are struggling with this issue and wanting to reach out in love to all those who follow Christ. I have learned so much from your writings and from watching your interactions with your friends. As a cradle Catholic of 72 years who had a very orthodox upbringing I was prejudiced against the gay community and did not know how to be with them in their journeys and stay true to my faith. You ( and Pope Francis ) are teaching me to look at all people through the eyes of Jesus and I feel truly blessed by that insight. Please pray for me to continue to grow in my faith, in my charity and in my hope for the guidance of the church.

    • Thanks for your lovely note. And your perseverance!

  4. Thank you for this beautiful article (and for your ministry to the LGBTQ community). I will recommend it to my parish community and friends, treasure it, and I’m sure, refer to it often. Thank you again.

    • Thank you!

  5. Thank you Farther Martin, your positive posts re gay couples have helped me and I hope many others, I have Gay nephew who is married and has surrogate twins, They are great parents and kind and caring !! I read daily ALL the nasty comments re gay people in JH Westens posts and SO many so called Catholics post very nasty statements about Pope Francis due to his being inclusive of ALL God,s children They call Him satanic, demonic etc , I support Pope Francis re His blessing of homosexual couples , resulting in “Catholics” telling me that I am on my way to hell etc etc ,,,

    • Yes, a lot of terrible messages from people. There is a lot of homophobia out there.

  6. What a beautiful read. As I read, I kept visualizing Love. Love of friendship, the love shown by each couple’s relationship, and the love for the catholic community. Very inspiring. Thank you very much.

    • Thanks. We also wanted to show these photos, to remind readers that these are real people, not abstractions.

  7. Thanks, Jim, for this beautiful tribute to the gift that same-sex couples are to the Church and to humanity.
    Thought you’d like this story. My wife and were returning from NOLA three days ago and saw a young woman in the airport gate area reading your “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything.” I told her I was a long-time teacher at a boys Jesuit high school in NY and remarked to her, “What a great book! Are you enjoying it?” She explained that she was considering accepting an offer of a medical school appointment at a Catholic Jesuit university, but didn’t know much about the Jesuits. She was loving the book and was discerning that being at a Jesuit institution would be a blessing to her personally and professionally. Nice work, Father!

    • Wow. Thanks for that story!

  8. An updated Auld Lang Syn!
    We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet!
    What better way to welcome our new year? Many many thanks

    • Thank you for this. Even the smallest interactions with LGBTQ people can sometimes have enormous impacts on our faith. Several years ago I met a gay man of strong faith. I was somewhat perplexed by how this could be and he explained how he couldn’t understand the world without his faith. He could not be separated from his faith despite all the pain this sometimes caused. Over the years I realised this conversation had a profound effect on me. As a long transitioned trans man I thought there was no way back but I’ve slowly realised this is not the case. That man gave me great hope as does this article. Thanks again

    • Many thanks!

  9. Thank you for this wonderful, positive article! I have also been greatly blessed by several same sex couples in my life. Their commitment to each other is inspiration to me and I see the love of God in them.
    I appreciate your faithful work on their behalf.

    • Thanks!

  10. Each and every article you write brings me inspiration and hope. Thank you and may God bless you with more opportunities to share your writing.

    • Thanks so much!

  11. I’m not Catholic but if Jesus met your friends, I’m guessing he’d treat them like you have.

    • I agree!

  12. Thank you, Father Martin for a great article.

    • Thanks so much!